Notes and Editorial Reviews
John Ehde (vc); Ib Lanzky-Otto (hn); Carl-Axel Dominique (pn);
Wilhelm Lanzky-Otto (pn)
STERLING 1665 (56: 45)
In a 27:4 feature article, titled
“Musica Sveciae: Romance in the Land of the Midnight Sun,” I called attention to a large and largely unknown Romantic repertoire by Swedish composers who lived and worked well into the 20th century, and who were seemingly unaffected by the modernist movements making inroads at the time in Europe and the U.S. One of those composers was Yngve Sköld (1899–1992), and of the several recordings reviewed as part of the aforementioned article, I singled out Sköld’s Second Symphony as the most Romantic-sounding of them all, describing the music as equal parts Dvo?ák, Tchaikovsky, and Rachmaninoff, topped off with a twist of Stenhammar, Peterson-Berger, and maybe even a hint of Carl Nielsen.
The three works on this disc reaffirm that appraisal and also enlarge upon it. But first, to recap briefly some of Sköld’s biographical particulars: dubbed the “Swedish Mozart,” he began to compose at the age of nine, and by 16 had completed his First Symphony. After more advanced studies in Rome and then Brno, where he met and married his wife, he returned to Sweden, earning his living as pianist and organist for the Swedish film industry. When the “talkies” came to Sweden’s motion-picture industry, Sköld supplemented his income by composing music for a number of films, while continuing to write symphonies, concertos (for violin, cello, trumpet, and horn), sonatas, and pieces for solo piano. His output in its entirety is respectable but not overly large. In 1938, he succeeded Dag Wirén as librarian of the Swedish Music Information Center, a post he held until his retirement in 1964. Sköld did little, if any, composing in the last years of his life. Profoundly at odds with contemporary developments in the music of his time, he could not abandon his commitment to a now outmoded and rejected Romantic aesthetic, and so, not unlike Sibelius, he laid down his pen.
Two of the three works on this disc—the
for cello and piano and the Suite for horn and piano, dated 1973 and 1974, respectively—are among the last Sköld would write. The Cello Sonata, written in 1927, is a much earlier effort; and given Sköld’s musical predilections, it comes as little surprise that the piece borrows a page or two from Brahms. If you are familiar with the cello sonatas of Brahms, Strauss, and Rachmaninoff, and if you savor their ripe wine as I do, you will appreciate this vintner’s bottle of full-bodied, fruity Cabernet.
Unless I’m imagining things (the booklet note makes no reference to it), the Andante movement of the Suite for horn and piano sounds like a near literal transcription of the
for cello and piano. They sound very much like the same piece to me. In any case, despite their late date, both pieces are permeated by the same basically Romantic gestural language, but there is now an attempt, if only half-hearted, on Sköld’s part to acknowledge at least some of the less radical, mainstream 20th-century developments that had taken place, and that by now were already over and done with. Accordingly, one hears a few Impressionist effects by way of Debussy, and in the first and third movements of the Suite a fair imitation of Hindemith. Except for the beautifully elegiac
and the second movement of the Suite that was likely cloned from it, I didn’t find either of these pieces enticing enough to beckon me back for another listen any time soon. The Sonata, however, is another story. It’s a major addition to the cello sonata literature, and one that I’d urge be incorporated into the standard repertoire.
Though unknown to me, all of the performing artists on this disc are superb. The Suite was recorded almost 35 years ago, in 1975, but the ADD sound is just fine. The more recent all-digital
and Sonata were recorded in 1999. Sterling is a Swedish label that, along with Bluebell, Swedish Society, and Phono Suecia, has done much to promote Scandinavian composers in general and Swedish composers in particular. As I said in my 27:4 article, the midnight sun still shone brightly over Scandinavia long after darkness had extinguished the Romantic era on the European and American continents. I therefore recommend this CD to those who wish to bask in these last rays of warmth before the advancing musical ice age of the mid 20th century gripped all in its glacial vise.
FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
Works on This Recording
Poem for Cello and Piano by Yngve Sköld
Carl-Axel Dominique (Piano),
John Ehde (Cello)
Period: 20th Century
Be the first to review this title